Mind Games

Clicking through Portland artist Tabor Robak's site Reality CPU feels like stumbling upon a scrambled memory bank of images captured sometime around 1993: a dream-arcade of faux vector graphics, neon color schemes, Uzi-blasting last action heroes and gratuitous drop-shadows. Though connected stylistically, and through semi-random branches of downplayed links, each page presents a micro-logic unto itself, miniature systems crafted from carefully chaotic layers of animated gifs. In his artist's statement, Robak refers to the structure of pages as "levels," and gaming provides an operative iconography for Reality CPU as a whole. Abstracted fighter-ships battle a wireframed boss in Master Computer; in Defcon, a green-screen interactive global wargames map declares "Game Over" after only one thermonuclear hit; 4x4 and Surprise Attack resemble fractured intros for old coin-ops. But there's more to Robak's design than a mere retrogaming vibe; metaphors for human consciousness are at play. The elegant pink-and-blue FTP illustrates a basic act of inter-entity communication, Spiritual Healing mimics a John Whitney-style computer mandala, and the coolly hypnotic, quasi-Kubrickian Life in Space combines four cinematic screens with looping monochrome overlay into an evocative, frozen moment. Robak writes that, as if moving through video game levels, the experience of each viewer will be singularly their own, due to "the limitations of the simple web technology being used to display many animations at once." The effect, he says, "is similar to an individual's unique perception of reality." - Ed Halter

Image: Tabor Robak, Surprise Attack